My Ex-Life (McCauley) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. Did you read the book in print or on an e-reader? Did you listen to the audiobook? How might the experience of this novel have been different if you had chosen otherwise?

2. Which character was your favorite? Least favorite? Which character changed the most?

3.Who does “my”refer to in the title My Ex-Life?

4. In chapter 4, Mandy says “This was a bad idea and she knew it, but...she was pulled into it by an urge to find out what would happen that was stronger than the urge to listen to the voice telling her not to.” At times, Mandy and other characters seem to be acting out of step with their truest selves. Can you think of examples from the novel? What, if anything, sets them right? Do you see any parallels to your own life?

5. Julie’s neighbor Amira doesn’t hide her husband’s aim to take over the Fiske house to make a pool, while David’s flame, Kenneth, isn’t completely forthcoming about the Airbnb petition. And then there’s Renata and Mandy’s friend Lindsay. Would you rather have an honestly disloyal friend or a dishonestly loyal one? Who’s the best friend in the novel? Who is the worst?

6. McCauley has been praised for his (characters’) sometimes caustic witticisms, such as “Leonard doesn’t have friends. He has financial opportunities wearing socks.” (chapter 2) Did you have a favorite one-liner in this novel?

7.  David reads E. F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels aloud to Julie both in their past life and their current one, and the book means different things then and now, but illuminates both times equally. Are there any books that provide such a touchstone for you?

8. David seems to object to his student Nancy’s stretching of the truth for her college application essay, but Nancy’s mom, Janine, shrugs it off. Should the truth ever get in the way of a good story?

9. In chapter 18, David presents Mandy with three essay prompts to sharpen her college application. Pick one and answer it from your own experience. What do you think the novel’s answer to each questions is?

  • Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis, real or imagined.
  • Dog and cat. Coffee and tea. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?
  • What is Square One and can you really go back to it?   

10. Do you agree with Julie’s decision not to tell David she was going to have an abortion? Did he have a right to know? Or did David cede that right by hiding his own secret from Julie?

11. Toward the end of the novel, in chapter40, David and Julie have a long-deferred reckoning on the stairs. What do you think has greater power, the said or the unsaid? Does timing matter?

12. How has Mandy’s life changed as a result of what happened with Craig Crespo? Will she be able to get beyond it?

13. Does David save Julie or does Julie save David? Neither? Both?

14. “All couples start off as Romeo and Juliet and end up as Laurel and Hardy.” (chapter 25) True or false?

15. We can always deceive ourselves better than others can deceive us. Do you agree? What might the novel argue? (Consider: David’s sexual orientation; Julie’s marijuana habit; etc.)

16. In the past, McCauley has said he’s fascinated by the idea of chosen (as opposed to birth) families. Which family in the novel strikes you as most true? What might your answer say about the family in our times? 
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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